Davenport Schools Change Schedule to Improve Student Achievement

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It's time for a change.

That seems to be the theme for Smart Intermediate School and Monroe Elementary School in Davenport, which were listed as the "persistently lowest-achieving schools" in the state, according to the Iowa Department of Education. Jefferson Elementary School also made the list, as well as two schools from two other Quad City Area school districts.

On Wednesday, March 12th, 2014, News 8 visited Smart and Monroe to see how teachers and students are working to get off the list.

"Our big philosophy is if something didn't work last year, we need to change it," says Kamie Swanson, Principal of Smart Intermediate. "If something didn't work last week, we need to make a change. We can't continue to do what we're doing if we're not seeing a difference."

New in 2013-2014, Smart has changed its school schedule from seven classes to eight.

"That class runs on a trimester and it's on a wheel so for one trimester of the year, they get an additional reading class, called CORE Reading," says Swanson. "They get an additional math class, called CORE Math. Then, they all get our Gateway to Technology class, which is a phenomenal program that really hits on science and math and engineering."

Swanson says the day is not any longer, but the extra period allows for extra learning.

"Compared to last year, our students get 9,213 extra minutes in reading and math," says Swanson.

At Monroe Elementary in 2013-2014, the school day is longer by a half hour. Teachers say the extra 30 minutes allows teachers and students to have more time to commit to reading and math.

"Everything is built on making 'catch up growth' for students," says T.J. Schneckloth, Principal of Monroe Elementary.

Schneckloth says each student is assessed individually and are placed into groups for "increased direct instruction."

"We have overall screeners and they pop up and tell us if there's a problem," says Schneckloth. "If there is a problem, we'll go in with our more diagnostic assessments to find out exactly what the problem is and then figure out how much is it going to take for them to catch up."

"Each grade level is tailored to the different needs of the different students."

Both Schneckloth and Swanson say they're already seeing improvements compared to last school year.

"Our students are growing and growing everywhere," says Schneckloth. "Growing and proficient are different, but our growth this year is more than a year so we know over a given time that our plan will work and that's exciting."

"It really gives those students the opportunity to get those standards in a different way and go a little bit deeper," says Swanson.

"Now we have to wait for the tests and hope that our scores will show that it's been successful."

Students across the state will take Iowa Assessments in April 2014, which measure their yearly academic growth.

There are also some changes taking place and already in place across the Davenport Community School District.

"[We have] full-time interventionists at the elementary level, half-time interventionists at the intermediate [level]," says Juli Staszewski, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development. "We've hired half-time coaches in literacy for all of our schools. We've added math coaches to help teachers with instruction. We've provided a tremendous amount of staff development in the area of reading and math for teachers."

Staszewski says she is not discouraged by the "persistently lowest-achieving schools" announcement.

"We're working very hard and we're doing a lot with family engagement and community involvement in our schools and we know that it just can't be the teacher in the classroom, it has to be a community that helps us."

"We're confident that when we take the Iowa Assessments here in a month that we're going to see some great progress because of the things we've already put into place - not only at those schools, but across the district," says Staszewski.

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